Classic Movie 2020

Classic Movie Of The Week: Artists and Models (1955)

Starring: Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine, Eva Gabor, Anita Ekberg

Director: Frank Tashlin

Rick (Martin) is an artist who lives in an apartment with his friend Eugene (Lewis), who loves comic books and always somehow seems to sabotage the jobs they get. Eugene’s comic book reading leads him to have nightmares that Rick turns into the plot for a comic book. Meanwhile, Eugene sees his neighbour model for the Bat Girl comic that he loves, and the model (MacLaine) falls for him, chasing him all through the movie has he rejects her for her alter ego. There’s also a sub plot that Eugene talks about a formula in his sleep that turns out to be real and wanted by some very neferious people.

Much of the sight gags in this film come from comic book humour, a water cooler boiling because a couple are kissing next to it. This is partly because the director also worked on cartoons like Looney Tunes and had a background in this kind of humour and aesthetic that the film needed. It was considered quite racey for the 50’s, with sexual innuendo’s and double entendres, as well as jokes about parental concerns over comic book violence and it’s effect on children.

Dean Martin’s smooth character keeps throwing himself at poor Abby, (Dorothy Malone) who is an artist and creator of the Bat Lady comics. It is very 1950’s and feels pretty uncomfortable to watch. And Shirley MacLaine’s Bessie throws herself at Eugene too, pursuing him mercilessly. Romance in this film is just stalking or forcing yourself into someone’s personal space til they give in and realise they love you. Of course, it’s all quite innocent and not sinister in tone, but I really felt sorry for the characters sometimes. It was sometimes mildly funny, but often just irritating to watch.

Speaking of irritating, Jerry Lewis is kind of annoying with his high whine and rolling eyes, over acting each line he’s given. I think I would have liked him if I was a kid in that era. He’s not worse than I’m sure my parents found Jim Carey in the 90’s or the kid in Indiana Jones in the 80’s.

Some people think this film is the best Martin and Lewis team up, and I can see why it has a good reputation. It’s full of energy and humour, and has a satirical quality too. It’s skewering pop culture of it’s era, and throwing verbal humour and site gags at you as fast as it can. It also has some dance and musical numbers which are pretty good, too. A great movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon.

See It If: you have that friend who you try to help but who just can’t get it together. Or if you were ever told that reading comic books was bad for you. It’s very of it’s time and has questionable sexual politics, but everyone is on their A game and it’s quite entertaining.

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